A view of the development that would make a new home for Taix on Sunset Boulevard. | Renderings courtesy of Los Angeles City Planning
The Echo Park restaurant will survive redevelopment, but its building will not
If you love old-timey buildings, you probably look at the Echo Park restaurant Taix and see the worn wood and the two little towers, and a charming resemblance to a chalet in the Alps. If you don’t, maybe all you see is a suburban funeral home.
The French restaurant serves cold pre-game beers to Dodger fans and tureens of soup to hungry, hungry hipsters, and has been at its Sunset Boulevard location for 58 years. But the Tudoresque building is not long for this world. Holland Partner Group plans to tear it down and give Taix a new home on the first-floor of a boxy apartment complex.
“The legacy business is what everyone cares about—it’s not the architecture,” says Ryan Guthrie, Holland Partner’s development director, referring to Taix’s current home.
But the architecture of the old building does matter to some people. It has been the topic of dozens of Twitter tirades after renderings of the new development were published this week. At least one person claims to be willing to chain themselves to one of the those towers to stop the bulldozers.
A debate among YIMBYs, preservationists, and homeless activists has ensued, dredging up the big questions that have become flash points in any conversation about LA’s changing landscape: Why do developers have so much influence over neighborhoods? And, what’s more important, saving an old building or adding more housing?
“It is a change, and that is going to invoke passions on all sides of the spectrum, but we’ve been very thoughtful,” says Guthrie.
He says that above all, the plan keeps Taix alive. The restaurant owners have said their current space is too big, and that with rising food and labor costs, the business is struggling. The redevelopment will also bring to the neighborhood 170 apartments, including 24 that are deed-restricted for tenants with low-incomes, and make the stretch of Sunset easier and more fun to walk along, with the addition of outdoor dining, colorful crosswalks and murals, and pathways that connect the restaurant to the public library immediately to the west and Reservoir Street to the east.
The new complex that Holland envisions would have looked absolutely wild in Echo Park in the 1990s, but is now right in line with the type of developments that have been cropping up as the neighborhood has grown more expensive and more white. Just down the street from Taix, a black steel and glass complex opened in 2017, replacing a couple of smaller stucco buildings that had been occupied by a 99-cent store, a pottery and tile shop, and coin laundry. The only business in that little strip that returned was a Starbucks, which was joined by a Chipotle, Habit Burger, and a yoga studio.
The two main remnants of Taix that will survive the redevelopment are its big bar top and a large red and white sign bearing the restaurant’s name that will be placed at the very top of the new six-story complex.
That will probably never be enough to satisfy those with decades worth of memories tied to Taix, and who probably won’t recognize the restaurant and bar when they reemerge. The big question according to Adrian Scott Fine, director of advocacy at the Los Angeles Conservancy, is if LA can find a way to build more housing without sacrificing some of its most cherished businesses? “These places mean a lot to people, and it’s hard to divorce all of that from the place in which it happened,” he says.
Twitter doesn’t hold all of the answers. But there are plenty of other hot Taix worth reading.
The Taix redevelopment “only” has 24 low-income units, but we build 100+ projects like this every year. Every single one could be opposed for “only” providing a small # of affordable units, and then we’d have zero instead of 3,000+ per year.
— Shane ‘Sweet James’ Phillips ♂️ (@ShaneDPhillips) May 18, 2020
LA desperately needs more housing
And above all, more subsidized housing that residents can actually afford. By one estimate, Los Angeles County needs more than a half-million such units to meet existing demand from low-income renters.
you realize that Taix sold the land to save the restaurant?
Like, the options here are
1) Taix stays alive and we get over 100 homes, 24 of which are subsidized affordable housing
2) Taix shuts down and becomes an abandoned restaurant and parking lot pic.twitter.com/0A6XefzN7D
— Anne Hidalgo 2020 (@james94_SF) May 19, 2020
Businesses sell to developers in order to keep their business alive
And Taix is no exception. The Taix family sold the property to Holland Partners in July 2019 for $12 million, property records show. The same goes for Amoeba Music, which sold its Hollywood property to a developer in 2015 and is now moving from its beloved location into a new development on the Walk of Fame.
I’m not gonna complain about the loss of Taix, lol, but this does look like a group project cobbled together during the quarantine by people who couldn’t figure out how to collaborate over zoom.
— sahra (@sahrasulaiman) May 20, 2020
‘Sterilizing’ the neighborhood
The developer is trying to make a lot of admirable changes to encourage walkability, but there are not many, if any, people defending the overall look here.
this sucks so bad. RIP taix, a genuine relic of a time before total urban corporate homogenization https://t.co/qiyPFoVb7W
— Piper French (@PiperSFrench) May 18, 2020
The new complex looks like every other new apartment building in LA
It’s not just Los Angeles. A very similar boxy style is being repeated over and over again in mid-rise apartment complexes in cities across the country. In a nutshell, the buildings tend to be wood-frame buildings with colorful facades set over concrete parking structures. The architect designing the new Taix complex is Togawa Smith Martin Inc., a firm that has been credited with coming up with the look that can be called “developer modern, McUrbanism, or fast-casual architecture.”
Who gets to decide what gets built?
At this stage, mostly the developer. Holland’s development team worked with the councilmember’s office and the Los Angeles Conservancy to come with the design. Scott Fine, of the conservancy, says he weighed in on an earlier schematic, but not the one that was filed with the city planning department last week and is not satisfied. (He calls saving a bar top and putting a sign on the new building “tokenism.”) A spokesperson for the Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell says the councilmember was always “open to exploring the possibilities without the current structure.”
But the plans are preliminary, and still have to be vetted not only by city commissions but by the local neighborhood council. Guthrie says there will be opportunities for the public to weigh in.
Ironically tho the restaurant’s design is faux. These same faux european cottage designs are all over early 20th century suburbia.
— Darrell Owens (@IDoTheThinking) May 18, 2020
Is the Taix building even special?
Taix’s current home was constructed in the 1920s and originally looked a lot more streamlined, with none of the decorative trims or gables that give it a Tudor flair. Ironically, both Art Deco and revival style like Tudor once proliferated in LA, and while they might be considered quaint and charming now, in the early half of the 20th century they might have been considered as overplayed as fast-casual architecture is today.
The flourishes to Taix’s facade were added in the 1960s, just before the restaurant moved in. The building has since been expanded and remodeled on a number of occasions, including in the 1990s, to make many of the interior spaces look old. But to say there’s nothing historic left? “I wouldn’t agree with that,” says Scott Fine.